Book #24 for 2011: The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly
Book #25 for 2011: The Overlook by Michael Connelly
It’s been a month since I last filed one of these book reports and there’s a reason for that. I ran into a book, one that I’d really been looking forward to reading, that stopped me dead in my tracks. At some point I realized that I’d been reading the book for nearly four weeks and wasn’t even halfway through it. I was having trouble forcing myself to read more than 20 pages a day without developing either a strong urge to sleep or an overwhelming compulsion to play a computer game. I eventually decided that I needed a break from the book and that I should find a book that was both shorter (the book I was reading was a 900-plus page monster) and more readable.
The last time something like this happened, I turned to the generally reliable Stephen King to jumpstart my reading habit. But King has a huge book of his own coming out in a few days and I don’t want to become glutted on his writing style before I get a chance to read it. So I thought instead of Michael Connelly, whose courtroom thriller The Lincoln Lawyer had turned out to be both readable and entertaining when I picked it up earlier this year.
This time I randomly selected his 2008 novel The Brass Verdict, which by sheer coincidence turned out to be a direct sequel to The Lincoln Lawyer. It’s the second book featuring lawyer Mickey Haller and begins with Haller returning to legal practice after a hiatus brought about by the events that ended The Lincoln Lawyer, which introduced the character. Reading about Haller was almost as much fun this time as it was the first and once again Connelly gave the impression of knowing a lot of stuff about being a criminal attorney that doesn’t find its way into legal textbooks. The Brass Verdict is a short, fast read, has a twisty plot, and an array of interesting characters, the most interesting of which is once again the very engaging Mr. Haller. Another of the characters, in a kind of literary crossover, is LAPD detective Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch, who has played the leading role in a lengthy series of novels that seem to form much of the basis for Connelly’s reputation as a crime writer. (I eventually realized that this was the novel that Amy’s brother, himself a Connelly fan, had once jokingly referred to as When Harry Met Mickey.)
I figured since Detective Bosch has figured so prominently in Connelly’s career that I really ought to read one of the novels where he’s the star rather than just a supporting player for Haller. So once again more or less at random I chose the 2007 novel The Overlook, in which a murder investigation involving Bosch becomes tangled up in a terrorism investigation involving the FBI. I wish I could say that The Overlook was as entertaining as the two Mickey Haller novels that I’ve read, but I can’t. Despite a mildly clever twist ending that I should have seen coming but didn’t, it’s really little more than a standard police procedural, written in the flat, toneless prose that so many of these sorts of books have (I wonder if I’d feel that way about Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct procedurals if I read one of them today?) and lacking the spark of interesting characters and inside revelations that make the Haller books so engaging. I think there are two reasons that, so far, I prefer the Haller books to the Bosch books. The first is that the Bosch books are told in the third person, which for many authors works well but in Connelly’s prose tends to distance the reader from the action, while the Haller novels are narrated in the first person, letting Haller’s lively narrative voice lift the story a bit out of the realm of the ordinary. The second is that, well, Connelly has written a hell of a lot of books about Harry Bosch and may well have told all the stories about him that really deserve to be told. At some later point I may read one or two of the earlier Bosch novels, to see if he was more interesting back in, say, the 1990s.
In the meantime I’m going to take another crack at that massive novel I put down in order to read these two. If I finish it, I may even tell you what it is.